Us and Them

Poll shows hardening of attitude towards immigrants – The Irish Times – Tue, Nov 24, 2009

THE VAST majority (72 per cent) of people want to see a reduction in the number of non-Irish immigrants living here, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes opinion poll.

Overall, a total of 43 per cent say they would like to see some, but not all, immigrants leave the State, while 29 per cent would like to see most immigrants leave. In contrast, just over a quarter (26 per cent) would like to see the number of immigrants remain as it is.

In a reversal of trends from polls in recent years, younger people’s attitudes towards immigration have hardened the most.

Pierre Bourdieu:

These media coups are symbolic coups de force that are struck in all innocence, and all the more effective for being unconscious. There is a sense in which this can only be done because the people who practise this violence are themselves victims of the violence that they practise, and this is where we get the false science of the half-educated that likes to give the appearance of scientific ratification to the intuitions of common sense: typologies based on projecting the social unconscious of those who commission such things (businessmen or politicians) and those who receive their commissions (journalists). And the responsibility of journalists comes from their involvement in this circulation of unconscious material.

This is an example of those symbolic effects that often take the form of the well-known paralogism: ‘The king of France is bald’. When someone says ‘The king of France is bald’, two senses of the verb ‘to be’ are involved, and an existential proposition (there is a king of France) is hidden by a predicative statement (the king of France has the property of being bald). Attention is attracted to the fact that the king is bald, while in reality, the idea that there is a king of France is smuggled in as self-evident. I could cite countless statements about the social world that are all of this type, especially those that have collective nouns as their subject: ‘France is fed up’, ‘The people will not accept’, ‘The French support the death penalty’, etc. In the opinion polls, instead of asking first: ‘Do you think there is a moral crisis at the present time?’, and then ‘Is it serious, very serious, etc.?’, people are simply asked: ‘Is the present moral crisis serious, very serious, etc.?’

Among the most powerful tacit propositions are all those that bear on those oppositions, that are principles of vision and division, such as rich/poor, bourgeois/common people, on which the struggle of the workers’ movement was based and which are still present in the unconscious of the majority of us; but also today, oppositions like nationals/foreigners, indigenous/immigrants, us/them, etc. This is a tremendous change. People might take completely different positions on what should be done about immigrants, but even those with opposing view tacitly agree – consensus within dissent – that the opposition between indigenous and immigrants has predominance and priority over every other kind of opposition, starting with that between rich and poor – within which there can of course also be indigenous and foreigners. This realizes the dream of all bourgeoisies, to have a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. From the point that there are only nationals, rich and poor together, everything is well sorted out, at least for the rich.

-From Questions of Words, The Media In The Service of Conservative Revolution, Political Interventions, Verso.

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